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Englishman in Dubrovnik Englishman in Dubrovnik

Welcome to the Island of Dubrovnik

By  Mark Thomas Apr 23, 2017

And we thought that terrorism wouldn’t have an effect on our tourism. We guessed that we were off the radar, a tiny fish in a huge ocean, almost out of sight out of mind. How wrong we were. Yes, Croatia is a tiny country in the grand scheme of things, squeezed up against the Adriatic Sea. But we are now part of something much larger, the European Union, and that union is “under attack.”

These last few weeks have seen an important event, which has had, and will which have an effect on us all. The statement from the European Council read “the temporary regulation is in response to the increase of terrorist threats.” Yes the Schengen wall was thrown up. All borders inside the European Union were tightened, meaning added security and every passenger having their ID’s and passports checked. Oh, what fun at Neum!

People wishing to pass a Schengen border, either at airports, ports or land crossings will now have to have their ID documents checked, meaning that at the border near Dubrovnik all drivers are being asked for passports or ID cards. As each ID takes time to be scanned the time for each passenger at a border will be considerably longer. Yes, considerably longer.

Now as Dubrovnik is basically an island having a main border almost closed is somewhat annoying. I was told a few weeks ago that there are twenty-seven border crossings in the Dubrovnik – Neretva County, like I said an island. There are more borders in the county than the number of pickpocket offences recorded in Dubrovnik in 2016, which was an almost negligent twenty-three cases. How many counties in the world have more borders than Dubrovnik? I did some research and the closest I could find was Zambia, but that’s a country and not a county. The longest border crossing in the world is between Canada and the US and they only have 117 crossings.

Imagine the situation when a tourist bus turns up at the Neum border and all of the passengers, around fifty, need their passports scanned. Each scanning takes around 30 seconds, at least, so just do the maths with a tourist bus. Now imagine ten of these buses in a row waiting to cross. Whether we are a direct target for terrorists we certainly are an indirect victim. The idea of going to Neum to pick up some cheap cigarettes and oil suddenly doesn’t seem so attractive.

So what is the solution? Well the current long delay has seen many people banging on the drum of building the bridge as soon as possible. A highway corridor across the narrow spit of land has also been touted. As ever it takes a small crisis to motivate people to start shouting. I have to be honest I am more of a fan of the corridor idea. For the simple fact that some time in the future BIH will be a full member of the European Union which will make the bridge obsolete. The highway, which was and I think still is named the Adriatic - Ionian Highway, was supposed to start at Italy and end in Greece. A secure corridor with no exits could be built across this tiny piece of BIH. It would be considerably cheaper, much faster, environmentally more suitable and easier to build; it would also be a small part in the larger puzzle of the highway. At a later date, well when BIH joins the EU, exits and borders could be added to the corridor although the security fences and cameras could remain.

Yes, I realise that this whole project would be a political “hot potato” but logic and reason would suggest it is a potato worth juggling.

In fact the bridge couldn’t form part of the highway anyway as not enough lanes on the bridge have been planned, even more reason to plough a highway through the land and build a corridor. If we didn’t build it in twenty years why start now, yes the first proposal to construct it was back in 1997. But my guess is that the current temporary regime of locking down the Schengen border will soon be stopped and some kind of normal service will resume at the Neum border. And once normality has resumed the whole question as to whether we need a bridge or a corridor will be once again swept under the carpet.

We will once again buy our cigarettes and oil and forget that we had waited for two hours on the road side a few months ago. That is until another terrorist bomb explodes in a major European capital and we will be once again wishing we had solved the problem earlier. “The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today,” - Franklin D. Roosevelt.